16th June 2012, Saturday. My family and I took the bus-ferry-bus-rides from Butterworth to Tanjung Bungah, Pulau Pinang (Penang Island) at around 10AM to just before lunch time to grace the exclusive invitation of our students who will be studying Medicine in either Galway or Cork in Ireland beginning this September as Malaysian scholars (read : everything’s FREE!). I believe this was their generous way of saying ‘THANK YOU’ to our humble efforts. Trust me, there was No-Grades or No-Marks-Attached to this occasion; it was purely a very warm and friendly get-together-party. FYI, I was a part of their Pre-Med studies and currently the soon-to-end, Bridging Course-Ireland program.
From the first set of photos on this post, one might think that we went to a park, a zoo or an aviary. Actually, the venue of our eat-all-you-want-lunch was at The Flamingo Hotel by the beach. I confess, I underestimated this hotel upon the sight of its modest lobby but when I saw the gorgeous beach, I immediately thought otherwise.
How lucky I am that my students invited even my family…
About the next photo : With me were the English lecturers from London who are now based in Penang, Esther and Phil, they’re great friends of Prof. Dato’ Dr. Chan Kok Ewe (or simply, Dato’ Chan for us) who’s seated next to them. It has been a pleasure for me and one of my best learning and humbling experiences as Dato’ Chan shared the lectures of Bridging Course-Ireland to me 2 days a week from October 2011-June 2012. Prof. Dato’ Dr. Chan happens to be our school’s Pro Chancellor too and the Director of Island Hospital, Penang and not to forget that he’s the Chairman of Penang Hospice Society among the long list of his worthwhile contributions.
That’s me beside Esther and Phil with the one and only, Prof. Dato’ Dr. Chan
Must-Read-About-Dato’-Chan : As Esther, Phil and I conversed, we all agreed that Dato Chan is one of the most noble & humble men we’ve ever met. His feet remain planted on the ground despite his humongous achievements (read : he’s one of the few Malaysian MD-pillars of Medical Research). Whenever I go and see him at his office to get the materials (which include powerpoint slides that he makes and videos related to our lectures that he personally handpicks), he never fails to amuse and motivate me even without trying. He’s a man beyond his titles. I would not know about the Korean Singing Pop-Group, Girls’ Generation if not for him (Do you know Girls’ Generation? If not, google them on youtube like what I did when Dato Chan made me watch one of their MTVs. When I told him that I was surprise that a guy his age can appreciate contemporary music that even I was not aware of, I noted from his reply that his age does not impose any limitations)!
Imagine inspite of his status, he managed to make cups of coffee for me and Tina on this lunch.
Not everyone does that to his subordinates.
His humility is so inspirational!
His humor and zest for life, phenomenal!
Meet the Malaysian scholars who are all Ireland-bound this September! *applause*
It’s not because they treated us for this lunch but I have to state, these Malaysian scholars who will be studying Medicine in either NUIG in Galway or UCC in Cork, Ireland starting mid-September 2012 until two and a half years after (then, they’ll go back to Taiping, Malaysia for their Clinicals and housemanship), are the epitome of the cream of the crop. Teaching them the few basics of Medicine has been such a breeze because they’re so responsible and goal-oriented. They attend to our classes with so much enthusiasm and eagerness to learn. Proof to that is their active participation in our lectures (I cannot remember a 2-hour-class with them that was so boring) and mind you, they laugh spontaneously when I crack jokes!
Formal to wacky…
Tina took my photos with them…
Prof. Dato’ Dr. Chan with our Ireland-bound-students
Once more, everyone with Tina this time…
It was so fun talking to Esther and Phil (Afiqah and Aizat helped me and Tina go through it without epistaxis or nosebleeding, hehehe!). We spoke about almost everything from their stay here in Penang for almost 3 years now, their favorite Malaysian dishes; Esther recommended a list of hawker food stalls from various parts of Penang with corresponding specialties! I remember the most interesting part was when Esther shared their experiences with the unforgettable tsunami that hit Penang (and Phuket, remember?) and the recent earthquake + tsunami alert which made us all panic. Tina and I were amazed to learn that Esther and Phil were very cool in dealing with the latter as they even had cups of tea in their balcony while my family and I evacuated and slept the night in a hotel far from our seafront-11th floor-appartment. And of course, we talked about THE PHILIPPINES. Phil and Esther want to visit our country during the Christmas holiday and boy, they were surprised to hear when I said that Filipinos celebrate Christmas season starting SEPTEMBER! Don’t we?
Enough with the photo-ops and those introductions; let’s get down to business. Here’s what we chow down….
I started with this noodle soup that looks like simple mami (mamee) dish for Filipinos, but the red & spicy sauce makes it Malaysian…
The hot & spicy broth did not irritate my taste buds; I actually liked it! Then, there was tempura station near the pool side so I sampled some ebi and veggie tempura and a few fried spring rolls. Sarap! Sedap!
That may have been another shameless display of dietary consumption from this site, but heck, I savored this plate to bits, even made me to want more! That’s how delicious those dishes in this plate were. The omelette, chicken, fish and that lamb were all tender and flavorful! The Briyani rice was tasteful too. I’m lost for superlatives to describe each.
If you’re a Filipino reading this post and viewing those photos, yes, you are absolutely correct in thinking that most Nyonya or Peranakan (Straits/Chinese-Malaysian) delicacies here in Penang look like our very own sweets from the Philippines. The rice cakes we have back home appear like those glutinous treats here; the difference lies on the tastes – ours mostly satisfy sweet tooth, but some Malaysian delicacies have a hint of saltiness infused with sweetness.
At this point, I remember I was already struggling to wish I had more room in my gastric pit but truth didn’t allow me to get some fruits from the spread. Anyway, after this Nyonya delicacies, I had coffee made by Dato Chan himself; now that’s one for the books!
It was a sumptuous lunch! The spread was mostly Malay dishes but they’re not that spicy and I truly liked it and might consider to go back for another Sunday buffet lunch with my family some other time. It’s so relaxing to enjoy a buffet with that priceless view with your love ones.
And to the 14 students (2 were not able to join us for this lunch) of Bridging Course-Ireland 2011-2012, I know I already told you this a countless times in between our classes, but would like to state it here again. Always remember that you are so BLESSED to have such opportunity to study MEDICINE for FREE in EUROPE no less. You’ll gain more than Medical knowledge but an experience to cherish for as long as you live! If you keep in mind that you are blessed and you know how to count your blessings, you will not only become what you dream of but will be an inspiration to others too.
Thank you for bearing with me every Tuesdays and Fridays from October 2011 to end of June 2012 Teaching for your batch taught me so many things beyond books and classrooms; indeed, learning has been mutual. I’ll surely miss doing lectures for you!
To Prof. Dato’ Dr. Chan, my work in AUCMS has been worthwhile because of you, Sir! Words are not enough to express my gratitude to you!
Thank you, Bridging Course-Ireland 2011-2012 students! We had a wonderful time!